What is the biggest problem facing California today? Ask just about anyone, and you'll get the same answer: jobs and the economy. And if you ask the citizens of Modesto, we'll say the same thing, only louder.
Here in Modesto, the unemployment rate is about 20 percent higher than the state average. Another plant has just announced plans to shut down, and a local hospital is getting ready to lay off workers. So the prospect of higher energy costs, more lost jobs and fewer tax revenues is more bad news we can do without.
But with the California Air Resources Board's plan to launch its cap-and-trade auction Wednesday, that's exactly what we'll be facing. California's utilities, manufacturers, oil producers, food processors and others have warned that the auction, part of a regulatory package intended to help cut the state's global warming emissions, will drive energy costs higher. The price tag is projected to run in the billions of dollars.
The legislative analyst agrees and has concluded those costs are likely to mean higher prices for consumers, and drive businesses and revenues out of the state.
The hit to businesses and families is bad enough, but consider what happens when energy costs go up for your city, and revenues simultaneously drop. It will become much harder to afford the fuel necessary to operate our police, fire, medical and transportation fleets, and much harder to fund basic services citizens have a right to expect, and depend on now more than ever.
We're sensitive to environmental issues here, and understand that cleaning up pollution has a price. But in the case of this particular regulation, the auction isn't necessary to achieve the emissions reductions required under the state's global warming law. The legislative analyst has said we can get those reductions without it.
CARB knows this but insists on taking billions of dollars out of the economy that are desperately needed to build businesses, create jobs and get our cities and citizens back on their feet.
It seems evident to everyone but the Air Resources Board that now is not the time to burden our businesses and our communities with the costs of a cap-and-trade auction, especially since it's not needed to meet our global warming emissions goals.
It's time for California to put its priorities in order: protecting our economy and jobs should come first.
This auction needs to be stopped and the only person who can do it before trading opens Wednesday is Gov. Jerry Brown. As one public servant to another, I'm asking him to do just that.
Geer represents District 2 on the Modesto City Council.